Open-source software tools for TESOL professionals — Part I
Thursday, June 12, 2014
According to the Open Source Initiative, open-source software "can be freely used, changed and shared (in modified or unmodified form) by anyone. Open-source software is made by many people, and distributed under licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition." These tools allow users to create, use, manage and share learning materials with flexibility and freedom.
Open-source tools are invaluable for TESOL professionals. There are numerous open-source tools available for educational purposes. Listed below are some practical platforms that TESOL professionals can use for instructional planning, content creation, content sharing and learning management needs.
Learning Management Systems
Learning management systems (LMS) are software and online platforms created to allow educators to create, share, manage and deliver learning materials and presentations using one location. Students use these platforms for learning, collaboration and assessments. Grades books are also created and managed within LMS platforms.
LMS platforms can be used by TESOL professionals to:
- create, manage and give exercises and assessments in all language-learning needs
- upload audio, video, articles and other texts for all English-learning purposes
- provide learning experiences where users can access content through a wide range of media and exposures that provide learning development using multiple modalities
- give students a social and collaborative learning experience that allows them to interact through project development or through dialogue to help facilitation of the acquisition of English
The following are common open source learning management systems.
- Moodle is the most widely used open-source learning management system internationally. This LMS has plugins available that allow it to be integrated with other learning systems. There is a large, involved support community also available for users who have questions or need help.
- Sakai is another LMS that provides a space for teachers and students to share in the learning experience. This includes capabilities for learning materials, research and collaboration. It has a social networking aspect to it as well.
- Gibbon is an LMS that is designed to try to minimize the workload of teachers and to help students with their learning.
Audio and Video Recording
Audio and video recording platforms provide teachers with the opportunity to record content for learning purposes. These types of platforms are essential to the learning needs of ESL students. TESOL professionals can utilize these tools for many purposes. They include:
- allowing teachers and students to create podcasts (audio recordings) that can be used on computers or mobile devices for learning or practicing English
- allowing teachers to create English audio content to be used alongside other text, hard copy content or realia
- enabling teachers to create screencasts of learning instructions or examples of learning projects
- enabling students to create screenscasts to practice their English on presentations, descriptions, audio recording of text and more
- allowing teachers or students to record classroom lectures or presentations to review online or on an LMS for further English development
The following are common open source recording platforms.
- Matterhorn provides video recordings of lectures through automated means. It then takes the lectures, packages them and distributes to determined destinations. These destinations include iTunes and YouTube. Videos created with Matterhorn have the ability to be encoded in usual formats.
- CamStudio is an open-source screen-capture software that allows you to take videos of your computer screen while captioning audio. It is a great program for creating presentations, lectures or step-by-step tutorials. CamStudio can be saved and viewed in Flash.
- Audacity is an open-source audio recording and editing platform. It even allows users to record and edit multiple tracks that can be put together. Audacity also allows audio tracks to be imported for editing purposes. Files can be saved in many formats. This recording platform can be used for many learning needs.
Reading and writing are essential components of the learning process for acquiring English. Content-creation tools allow educators to create learning materials that are interactive and can be used in LMS or shared in class using computers.
- Xerte can be used to create interactive learning materials, media and exercises. It has text-to-speech formatting, allowing authors to creating learning materials that can be accessible to all learners. Materials created with Xerte can be viewed in multiple formats with HTML5.
- Sigil is available to users who want to create ebooks. It is supported in the ePub format and provides direct-source editing capabilities.
- Etherpad is collaborative-editing authoring tool available online. Multiple users can access and edit the same documents in real time using its capabilities. This open source platform also provides a timeline shows a document's history. Documents created with this platform can be saved in multiple formats.
While the above are open-source tools that can be used for the educational purposes of learning, there are many more available. The above tools highlight some common platforms that can be accessed and use by TESOL professionals for diverse educational planning, development, learning and assessment purposes.
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